TL;DR – Today I explore the chaos and excitement of a live game of footy
One of the things I have really gotten into over the last couple of years has been NRL football, one of the three big football codes in Australia (for those playing at home this is Rugby League, not Rugby Union, or Australian Rules Football). My local team here is the Brisbane Broncos, who were also my grandfather’s team, so that felt like a good place to start. While I have been enjoying the games on TV I have not had the money to go to a live game, well that all changed last night as I made the trip to Suncorp Stadium thanks to a kind free ticket from a friend.
When we arrived there was a lot of tension in the crowd because everyone knew that this was a do or die game for the Broncos, as some disappointing losses during the middle of the season have them on the bubble of missing out on the finals and this was the last home game of the season. While the Eels were safe from relegation, they too wanted a win to secure a much converted top-4 placement.
Of course the easiest way of calming the nerves is of course to take the opportunity to splurge on some junk food, and I would very much recommend the lamb loaded fries. But then loaded fries are kind of my jam, so your mileage might vary.
As the teams warmed up on the field, and here we have Jamayne Isaako practising his goal kicking that would be one of the decisive factors in the game, I thought back to the last time I was at an NRL game. To put that in perspective the last time I was at a live game the Crushers were still in the competition which should say a lot about how long ago that was.
One thing I think the TV can never fully capture is the atmosphere of sitting in the crowd, it is a feeling both better and worse as you surge with thousands of people when things are going well and shout out in dismay when things are going wrong. Also the TV does not capture just how hot those flames are, even from where our seats were.
As the match started another thing that struck me was how much more quiet the experience was than watching it on the TV. There is no running commentary, there is no cut to the sideline to see what Billy Slater or Darren Lockyer think. But while it is quieter in some ways, it is much louder in others. When you hear the sound of bodies colliding it has so much more power in person. Also the roar of the crowd is something that you can only ever experience live.
I got to experience that first hand when in the second half captain Darius Boyd smashed through the Eel’s line to cross over for a try. Darius has coped a hiding in the media over the last couple of weeks, so seeing him answer his critiques with an amazing performance got the crowd on its feet. The noise was thunderous, as thousands cried out as one.
In the end, there has to be a winner and loser, and this first live game in decades proved to be a nail bitter of an experience. A late try by the Eels brought the game to a 16-16 tie just minutes before full time. A late goal by Jamayne Isaako in the closing seconds just missed sending the game into extra time. All around us, the crowds murmured in barely contained excitement. The game was on a knifes edge and no one knew which way it was going to fall. But after a brilliant line break by David Fifita they were in spitting distance from the goal line and the magic boot of Isaako sealed the deal.
And just like that it was over, and the thousands make their way to the trains, buses, or cars to get their way home. There is this feeling of melancholy that comes over you after you have this collective shared high. Nearly everyone was happy, but then there is still one more game of the season that now everything hinges on. I have to say I really enjoyed my first live NRL game in a very long time. The crowd was electric, the game was magnificent, and not even some let’s say questionable calls by the refs could get in the way of it. Will I be back, well let’s just say the gap between my 2nd and 3rd NRL game is going to be a lot shorter than between the 1st and 2nd, that much I can say for sure.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images are by the author